Strategic Center for U.S.

The Greater Middle East Initiative is an inevitable result of the new security strategy the United States has adopted since the September 11 terrorist attacks


By ZHOU BIAN

The Greater Middle East Initiative was loosely based on the Helsinki Pact signed in 1975 by 35 nations, which, as the U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher pointed out, played a major role in the disintegration of the Soviet bloc. He predicted that the Greater Middle East Initiative would sweep away Islamic extremism.

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Europe had been the strategic center of the United States during the Cold War. Now that terrorism is seen as the major threat to U.S. security, the Middle East has undoubtedly become America’s current strategic center.

The Bush administration did not attach much importance to the Middle East in the initial days after it took office in 2001. But the September 11 terrorist attacks showed the sole superpower the rising threat of terrorism. With this realization, Bush launched the Afghan war, the Iraq war and an intensified manhunt of Osama bin Laden. In addition U.S. troops have been stationed in terrorist haunts worldwide, as the country continues to adjust its strategic deployment.

Bush’s Greater Middle East Initiative is an inevitable result of the new security strategy the United States has adopted since the September 11 terrorist attacks, said Li Guofu, researcher at the China Institute of International Studies. The Bush administration believes that the combination of international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction is a major threat to U.S. security, he added.

The Bush administration currently sees the Middle East as the major battlefront of its counter-terrorist campaign, targeted at so-called “rogue” countries and Islamic extremist forces. It also believes that only by pushing democratization in Muslim countries with U.S. principles and values, could it fundamentally eradicate terrorism, according to Li.

After the Iraq war, the National Security Committee of the United States held several meetings to discuss how to transform the Middle East. Plans including the Middle East Free Trade Agreement as well as the Middle East partnership and financial aid to the region were proposed. The Greater Middle East Initiative synthesizes all the related plans and proposals, which signals that the United States will carry out its global counter-terrorist strategy comprehensively.

Some critics questioned the real intention of the Greater Middle East Initiative, pointing out that Bush is trying to use it to win votes for his reelection. With the aggravating Palestinian-Israeli conflict and increasing troubles in Iraq, they said Bush’s plan was devised, not only to transfer domestic and international attention and relax the pressure on the Iraqi occupation, but also to win over voter support. Former U.S. National Security Adviser Dr. Zbigniew Brezinski’s comments in this aspect provides food for thought. He said that “democracy is now a fashionable slogan,” pointing out that using it to defend the sluggish peaceful process is a deceitful trick and this will undermine the standing of the United States in the Arab World.

In response Bush has expressed that a democratic Iraq and establishment of a Palestinian state will contribute to the democratic process in the Middle East.

Though the Bush administration’s proposal of the Greater Middle East Initiative in the election year really gives rise to questions over its motivation, this doesn’t mean it is just a tactic to serve Bush’s reelection.

Evidently, the White House considers it is now the best time to launch the initiative, hoping along the way it could also help Bush’s reelection. In the long term, the United States is trying to carry out all-around transformation of the Middle East with international cooperation. But by leading the initiative it no doubt plans to ensure it’s political, economic and security interests.